Monthly Archives: March 2016

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Relationships: Are You Winning At Foreplay?

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(PhatzNewsRoom /BlackDoctor.org)    —-     It is of no surprise to me that the average couple only spends one to four minutes on foreplay before jumping right into the penetration portion of intercourse, considering we live in a day and age where everything is quick, on the go and instant. Somewhere through the decades, we have lost sight of what foreplay is really for. We’ve substituted it with quick, lackluster oral stimulation and saliva to lubricate, but did you know that foreplay is what turns women on and ensures a lasting sexual experience? Let me explain…

Men are easily aroused by sight and sound and can become erect and ready to enter within three minutes. However, it takes women a bit longer to become stimulated and ready to be penetrated (anywhere from 10-15 minutes). Foreplay is a set of physical and mental acts that help ignite the desire for sex, as well as help lower inhibitions in your partner to help you gain his/her trust. When a woman is stimulated before actually being penetrated, her vagina will produce secretions that will help lubricate the area to reduce friction during movement, and her cervix will widen and recede further back toward the uterus to allow a better fit for the penis (the vagina at a resting state before arousal is only about 2.75 inches deep).

READ: How To Create Intimacy During Sex

If a woman experiences dryness or pain during sex, more than likely her partner hasn’t warmed her up before trying to start the race.  It’s just like jumping into a car in the middle of winter and driving it without letting it warm. Chances are your car will run slow for a few minutes and you may be causing damage to your car in the long run.  When you skip foreplay, you put your partner at risk for tearing, bleeding, pain and a rough experience. More foreplay equals a wider cervix and more lubrication, which encourages better and longer sex.

1. Start Before The Bedroom – Men, men, men! Foreplay is not just getting between her legs. It starts with the mind. Put a secret sexy message in her purse for her to find. Leave her a sexy voicemail. Send something to her office to let her know how much you want her when she gets home.

2. Listen To What She’s NOT Saying – Being great at foreplay is not always knowing what you she IS saying, but what she is NOT saying. What kind of kisses make her moan? What does she say makes her hot for you?

3. Create The Mood – I know as a man, many men can do it anywhere at anytime. But with a woman it heavily depends on the whole experience. So every once in awhile create the look, create the smell, create the meal that goes with a night or a day of pleasure.

4. Learn from the Best – There’s no shame in a real man’s game to seek help to learn how to do something better. Look online. Talk to a sex therapist. Learn from your woman about what pleases her. Watch porn together to learn more. The key thing in this is to learn. If you know better you can do better.

So, if you are looking for a few quick tips on how to incorporate more foreplay into your sexual experiences, look no more!

    • Compliment a woman on her body.
    • Incorporate erotic massage or sensual rubdowns.
    • Set the atmosphere and make the area comfortable and inviting (candles and music work well).
    • Spend more time kissing.
    • Make eye contact during these activities.
    • Oral sex is great foreplay and a preview before the main event.
    • Talk dirty
      • Incorporate the use of toys (e.g., massage wands, blind folds, vibrators, wrist cuffs – whatever you may be into).
      • Take things slow. Foreplay is not to be rushed through.
      • Remember to breathe.
      • Use foods that are known to spark sexual arousal (e.g., chocolate, strawberries, red wine).
      • Remain in the moment.

Obama, Asian leaders to huddle on North Korea nuclear threat

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Working to display a united front, the United States and key Asian countries will seek Thursday to put more pressure on North Korea as world leaders open a nuclear security summit in Washington.

President Barack Obama, the summit’s host, will also seek to smooth over tensions with China over cybersecurity and maritime disputes as he and President Xi Jinping meet on the sidelines. The summit also offers Obama his last major chance to focus global attention on disparate nuclear security threats before his term ends early next year.

Though nuclear terrorism and the Islamic State group top this year’s agenda, concerns about North Korea’s nuclear weapons program are also commanding focus as the two-day summit gets under way. Those long-simmering concerns have escalated of late following the North’s recent nuclear test and rocket launch.

Obama planned to have a joint meeting Thursday morning with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye, two U.S. treaty allies deeply concerned about North Korea. It’s a reprise of a similar meeting the three countries held in 2014 during the last nuclear security summit in The Hague.

China’s influence over the North will be front and center later in the day when Obama sits down with Xi. The White House said that meeting was also an opportunity for Obama to press U.S. concerns about human rights and China’s assertive territorial claims in waters far off its coast.

Though frictions with China remain high, the U.S. was encouraged by China’s role in passing stringent new U.N. sanctions on North Korea, its traditional ally. Now the U.S. is pressing Beijing to implement those sanctions dutifully.

“The international community must remain united in the face of North Korea’s continued provocations, including its recent nuclear test and missile launches,” Obama wrote in an op-ed appearing Thursday in The Washington Post. He added that the recent U.N. sanctions “show that violations have consequences.”

The U.S. and South Korea have been discussing whether to deploy a U.S. missile defense system called THAAD, or the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, in South Korea to counter the threat from the North. China has resisted that step out of concern it would also give the U.S. radar coverage over Chinese territory, and Russia opposes it as well.

Antony Blinken, the U.S. deputy secretary of state, said this week that China must engage with the U.S. directly on North Korea if it wants to avoid the U.S. and its partners taking steps “that it won’t like.”

In North Korea, meanwhile, the government has been churning out regular propaganda pieces condemning the U.S. and South Korea, while warning it could launch a pre-emptive strike against South Korea or even the U.S. mainland at any time.

For years, pressing security crises in the Middle East have overshadowed Obama’s goal of expanding U.S. influence and engagement in Asia, with the North Korean threat another unwanted distraction. Though the U.S. and China have struck sweeping agreements on climate change, they’ve remained at odds on many economic issues. Obama has also been unable to get Congress to ratify the Asia-Pacific free trade deal his administration painstakingly negotiated.

Obama also planned to meet Thursday with French President Francois Hollande, amid steep concerns about terrorism in Europe following Islamic State-linked attacks in Paris and Brussels. The summit continues on Friday with a special session focused on preventing IS and other extremists from obtaining nuclear materials and attacking urban areas.

Some of the 2,000 metric tons of highly enriched uranium and separated plutonium being used in civilian or military programs worldwide could be turned into a nuclear bomb if stolen or diverted, the White House warned. Fewer than half of the countries participating in the summit have even agreed to secure sources of radiological material that could be used for a dirty bomb, though more countries are expected to announce commitments during the summit to tighten controls.


Associated Press writer Matthew Pennington contributed to this report. Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Wednesday, March 30, 2016. Xi is in Washington to attend the Nuclear Security Summit. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Officials: US mulls new rules on dollars to help Iran

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration may soon tell foreign governments and banks they can start using the dollar in some instances to facilitate business with Iran, officials told The Associated Press, describing an arcane tweak to U.S. financial rules that could prove significant for Tehran’s sanctions-battered economy.

While no decision is final, U.S. officials familiar with internal discussions said the Treasury Department is considering issuing a general license that would permit offshore financial institutions to access dollars for foreign currency trades in support of legitimate business with Iran, a practice that is currently illegal.

Several restrictions would apply, but such a license would reverse a ban that has been in place for several years and one the administration had vowed to maintain while defending last year’s nuclear deal to skeptical U.S. lawmakers and the public.

The United States and other world powers reached agreement with Iran last summer to give the Islamic Republic billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for its promise to curtail programs that would allow it to develop nuclear weapons

Because of its status as the world’s dominant currency, the dollar often is used in money conversions. For example: If the Iranians want to sell oil to India and be paid in euros instead of rupees, so they could more easily purchase European goods, the process commonly starts with the rupees being converted into dollars.

American sanctions block Iran from exchanging the money on its own. And Asian and European banks have steered clear of such transactions, fearful of U.S. regulators who have levied billions of dollars in fines in recent years and threatened transgressors with a cutoff from the far more lucrative American market. Using dollars to make even a rupees-to-euros conversion, following that example, would still involve the money entering the U.S. financial system, if only momentarily.

Dropping the prohibition would go a long way to meet Iran’s complaints that the West hasn’t sufficiently rewarded it for taking thousands of uranium-spinning centrifuges offline, exporting its stockpile of the bomb-making material and disabling a facility that would have been able to produce weapons-grade plutonium. But it surely would prompt intense opposition from critics of last July’s nuclear accord.

If approved, the new guidance would allow dollars to be used in currency exchanges as long as no Iranian banks are involved, according to the officials, who weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity. No Iranian rials can enter into the transaction, and the payment wouldn’t be able to start or end with American dollars. The ban would still apply if the final payment is intended for an Iranian individual or business on a U.S. sanctions blacklist.

The administration has hinted the U.S. could introduce new sanctions concessions, but has confirmed nothing.

In a speech Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew lauded Iran for accepting the nuclear deal to achieve its goal of ending Western sanctions. “Since Iran has kept its end of the deal, it is our responsibility to uphold ours, in both letter and spirit,” he told the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Lew warned that “sanctions overreach” risked driving business away from the United States, hurting the U.S. and global economy and empowering economic rivals.

“Our central role must not be taken for granted,” he said. “If foreign jurisdictions and companies feel that we will deploy sanctions without sufficient justification or for inappropriate reasons — secondary sanctions, in particular — we should not be surprised if they look for ways to avoid doing business in the United States or in U.S. dollars.”

Members of Congress are crying foul. The 2012 National Defense Authorization Act instructs the president to “block and prohibit” all Iranian assets if they “come within the United States, or are or come within the possession or control of a United States person.”

In a letter to Lew on Wednesday, Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Mark Kirk said any Iranian access to dollars “would benefit Iran’s financiers of international terrorism, human rights abuses and ballistic missile threats.” They cited testimony last year by Treasury Department’s sanctions chief, Adam Szubin, who told lawmakers Iran wouldn’t be allowed “even to execute a dollarized transaction where a split second’s worth of business is done in a New York clearing bank.”

U.S. officials said the change wouldn’t break that pledge because Iran still wouldn’t have access to the American financial system. If an Indian bank exchanges the money with a Hong Kong clearinghouse and the money is eventually converted to non-U.S. currency, no Iranian institution ends up touching any dollars. And no Iranian rials would be entering the United States.

Both concerns are rooted in the Obama administration’s designation of Iran in 2011 as a jurisdiction of “primary money laundering concern.” Critics of Obama’s outreach to Iran say softening the rules would provide Iran a toehold toward re-entering the global financial system, helping it raise more cash for U.N.-banned ballistic missile development or support of U.S.-designated terrorist groups.

Mark Dubowitz, an Iran sanctions expert at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and critic of the nuclear deal, said the administration’s currency argument was “a bait and switch which ignores a long-standing administration commitment not to greenlight Iran’s access to the greenback.”

“This is above and beyond what is required by the nuclear deal,” he argued.


Associated Press writer Deb Riechmann contributed to this report. FILE- In this March 1, 2016, file photo, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew speaks with journalists in Hong Kong. The Obama administration may soon tell governments and banks worldwide they can start using the dollar in some instances to facilitate business with Iran, officials told The Associated Press. In a speech Wednesday, March 30, Lew lauded Iran for accepting the nuclear deal to achieve its goal of ending Western sanctions. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)

With jihadis at the door, Syrians rush to rescue history

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DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — With Islamic State group militants on the doorstep of his hometown in eastern Syria, Yaroob al-Abdullah had little time. He had already rushed his wife and four daughters to safety. Now he had to save the thousands of ancient artifacts he loved.

In a week of furious work in summer heat, tired and dehydrated from the Ramadan fast, the head of antiquities in Deir el-Zour province and his staff packed up most of the contents of the museum in the provincial capital. Then al-Abdullah flew with 12 boxes of relics to Damascus.

The pieces included masterpieces: A nearly 5,000-year-old statuette of a smiling worshipper. A colorful mural fragment from a 2nd-century temple for the god Bel. Thousands of fragile clay tablets inscribed with cuneiform writing, including administrative records, letters and business deals that provide a glimpse at life nearly 4,000 years ago in the Semitic kingdom of Mari.

The move, carried out in 2014, was part of a mission by antiquities officials across Syria to evacuate everything that could be saved from Islamic State extremists and looters. The extent of the operation has been little known until now, but its participants described to The Associated Press a massive effort — at least 29 of Syria’s 34 museums largely emptied out and more than 300,000 artifacts brought to the capital.

The pieces are now hidden in secret locations known only to the few specialists who handled them, said Maamoun Abdulkarim, who as head of the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums in Damascus oversaw the operation. “Other than that, no one knows where these antiquities are — not a politician, not any other Syrian.”

There’s much that couldn’t be saved. The damage is most symbolized by Palmyra, the jewel of Syrian archaeology, a marvelously preserved Roman-era city. IS militants captured it last year and proceeded to blow up at least two of its most stunning temples. Over the weekend, Syrian government forces recaptured Palmyra from the militants and discovered they had trashed the city museum, smashing statues and looting relics — though fortunately about 400 pieces had been hidden away by antiquities officials before the IS takeover.

Across the country, the destruction has been tragic. Wherever they overran territory in Syria and Iraq, Islamic State jihadis relentlessly blew up, bulldozed or otherwise tore down monuments they consider pagan affronts. They and other traffickers have taken advantage of the chaos from the 5-year-old civil war to loot sites and sell off artifacts. Even in the museums that were evacuated, some items were too large to move — giant statues or ancient gates and murals — and fell into IS hands, their fate unknown.

But the 2,500 archaeologists, specialists, curators and engineers with Syria’s antiquities department, including some who defected to join the opposition, have often risked death to protect what they can.

One 25-year-old woman led a military convoy carrying antiquities out of the northern city of Aleppo, a major battleground between rebels and government forces. Out of fear for her safety, she requested anonymity.

Guards at archaeological digs and other sites in areas now under IS control secretly keep tabs on the ruins and feed Abdulkarim photo updates on WhatsApp. Several of them have been killed. Khaled al-Asaad, Palmyra’s retired antiquities chief, was beheaded by the extremists in August after spiriting away artifacts from the city’s museum.

Ziad al-Nouiji, who took over from al-Abdullah as head of antiquities in Deir el-Zour, brought a second load of relics to Damascus last June. But otherwise he has remained in the government-held part of Deir el-Zour city.

He knows the danger: IS militants besieging the area are hunting for him, posting his name on their Facebook pages as a wanted man. He relocated his family abroad but is staying put. “This is my duty, my country’s right. If we all left the country and our duties, who would be left?” he asked.

In the rebel-held northwestern city of Maarat al-Numan, archaeologists affiliated with the opposition protected the city’s museum, which houses Byzantine mosaics. There the danger was from government airstrikes, so they erected a sandbag barrier with financial and logistical support from former antiquities directorate chief Amr al-Azm, who sided with the opposition. Last June, just after the sandbagging was complete, a government barrel bomb damaged mosaics in the outside courtyard, he said.

“The heroes here are the Syrian men and women on both sides who … are willing to risk their lives for their heritage,” al-Azm said by telephone from Shawnee State University in Ohio, where he teaches. “That’s what gives me hope for the future of Syria.”

The antiquities authorities didn’t take any chances, even clearing museums in government-controlled areas. At the National Museum in Damascus, the halls and galleries have been empty since the artifacts were hidden away in 2013 for fear rebel shelling could hit the building. In the pottery room, dust rings mark where the pieces once stood and only the labels remain.

In 2014, with EU funding, the U.N. cultural agency UNESCO began training Syrian staff in storing artifacts and helped establish a nationwide system to document their inventory. In Damascus last month, a team of archaeologists and archivists was still processing the collection brought from the Daraa Museum in southern Syria.

“With a good team, a charismatic leader and our support they managed an extraordinary feat,” said Cristina Menegazzi, head of UNESCO’s Syrian heritage emergency safeguard project.

A vital crossroads throughout history, Syria holds a legacy from multiple civilizations that traded, invaded and built cities across its territory — the Akkadians, Babylonians and Assyrians of ancient Mesopotamia, various Semitic kingdoms, the Romans and Byzantines, and then centuries of Islamic dynasties. The country is dotted with “tells,” hills that conceal millennia-old towns and cities, some of which have been partially excavated and many more that are still waiting to be discovered.

Deir el-Zour, a region along the Euphrates River, is rich with such sites.

Among them is Mari, the capital of a kingdom dating back to the early 3rd millennium B.C that grew on trade between Mesopotamia and the Levant for more than 1,000 years until it was crushed by the Babylonians. Its trove of thousands of tablets in the Akkadian language has given archaeologists a rich picture of the era. Upriver is Dura Europos, a city that grew under Roman rule in the early centuries A.D. — and its ruins revealed evidence of perhaps the earliest use of chemical warfare, when Parthian invaders apparently used sulfuric smoke to smother Roman defenders during a siege.

In this rich environment, al-Abdullah and his peers grew up amid a heritage that inspired them to display such bravery.

The 48-year-old al-Abdullah said he developed a passion for archaeology as a child watching American and French excavators work in the ruins of Terqa, an ancient city buried under his hometown of al-Asharah. He later led 10 archaeological expeditions along the Euphrates.

In the summer of 2014, IS militants declared their “caliphate” stretching across parts of Syria and Iraq. They swarmed over 90 percent of Deir el-Zour province and — shortly after al-Abdullah’s emergency museum evacuation mission — took part of Deir el-Zour city.

Al-Abdullah, now the head of the Damascus museum, says it was as natural to save his hometown’s heritage as it was to save his daughters.

“People who worked in digging know what it is like to look for a certain piece and then to find it,” he says. “We consider this piece as one of our own children. As we fear for our children and family, we fear for those antiquities.”


In this Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016 photo, Jihad Abu Kahrlah, an archaeologist at the National Museum in Damascus, Syria, works on preserving artifacts rescued from the Daraa Museum in southern Syria. Faced with the Islamic State group onslaught and destruction by looters, Syrian antiquities authorities succeeded in evacuating hundreds of thousands of artifacts from museums around the country to safety in Damascus. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Head of UN-backed government sails to Libyan capital

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TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — The head of a U.N.-brokered Libyan unity government arrived in the capital by sea Wednesday to set up a temporary seat of power in a naval base despite threats from competing factions, which prevented him from arriving by air.

Western nations view the unity government as the best hope for ending Libya’s chaos and uniting all factions against an increasingly powerful Islamic State affiliate, which has seized the central city of Sirte. But factions within two other rival Libyan governments, one of which is based in Tripoli, are opposed to the U.N.-backed body.

Fayez Serraj sailed in from neighboring Tunisia aboard a Libyan vessel, according to the unity government’s website, which denied reports that the officials had been brought in aboard an Italian ship. His arrival sparked fears of renewed clashes in Tripoli, which is controlled by several militias with different loyalties.

Hours after he landed, shops and restaurants closed, and cars lined up outside petrol stations. Opposing militias set up checkpoints in downtown Tripoli, stopping cars and searching drivers.

Late on Wednesday, witnesses said armed men attacked the offices of al-Nabaa TV network and took it off the air. The network has been giving air time to Islamists supportive of the Tripoli government.

Serraj arrived with six deputies who are members of the Presidential Council, which was established based on a U.N.-mediated deal signed by breakaway groups from the two governments last year. The council formed the new unity government headed by Serraj.

The officials were prevented from flying into Tripoli by a rival Islamist-backed government based in the capital. A third government is based in the east of the vast oil-rich country. Libya has been dominated by an array of militias since the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

“It is time for all of us as Libyans to work together for the sake of Libya,” Serraj said upon his arrival, according to the government’s Facebook page. He urged rivals to “turn the page of the past,” saying “revenge, alienation, antipathy, and hatred don’t build a state.” In a nod to Islamist factions, Serraj stressed that all laws will be compliant with Shariah.

He also vowed to unify state institutions and implement “rapid measures” to lessen the suffering of civilians. Pictures on the website showed him shaking hands with naval officers, who presented him with a golden plate.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry welcomed the council’s arrival.

“Now is not the time for obstructionists to hold back progress, but rather for all Libyans throughout the country to embrace this historic opportunity for a peaceful and more prosperous Libya,” he said in a statement.

The U.N. envoy to Libya, Martin Kobler, praised Serraj’s “exceptional personal courage” and urged officials to facilitate an “immediate orderly and peaceful handover of power.” He tweeted: “All security actors in #Libya have responsibility to ensure safety and security of Presidency Council & #GNA.”

But Ali Abu Zakouk, the foreign minister of the Islamist-backed government, said Serraj’s presence is “unacceptable.” Last week, the Tripoli government declared a state of emergency and ordered its forces to “increase security patrols and checkpoints.” Days later, the government closed Tripoli’s air space.

On Tuesday, Khalifa Ghweil, the prime minister, said the U.N. was “deepening the schism” and that its political deal had produced “a deformed newborn.” He added in a televised speech that the government had to close the air space after members of the U.N.-backed government tried to fly in on a passenger plane from Tunisia, accusing them of using the other passengers as “human shields.”

Tripoli’s airport was closed again on Wednesday, with all flights diverted to Misrata, an airport official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters.

After Serraj’s arrival, Ghweil reiterated his opposition to the U.N. government, which he described as “infiltrators.” He questioned the new government’s commitment to Islamic law and urged militias to oppose it.

“Either they hand themselves in or leave,” he said.

Serraj faces a daunting array of challenges, and could struggle to impose his will on the Central Bank, the state-run oil company and other institutions.

More immediately, he is at risk of being attacked or besieged in his base by rival militias. He is being guarded by battle-hardened militias from the city of Misrata, which saw fierce fighting during the uprising five years ago. But Tripoli is also home to several powerful Islamic militant groups, which could move against him, setting off yet another round of fighting.

Tripoli’s various militias appeared to be weighing their next moves, with many leaning toward support for Serraj.

The spokesman of the Special Deterrent Force, a powerful unit that answers to Tripoli’s Interior Ministry, said it would support Serraj. “We want one man to unite the country. We hope that this man is Serraj,” Ahmed ben Salem said.

But he said around 20 percent of the militias are opposed to the new government. Among them is Salah Badi, part of the Libya Dawn coalition which backed Tripoli’s parliament against forces allied with the internationally-backed government in 2014. Fighting that year saw the Tripoli government secure the capital while the internationally-backed government relocated to the country’s far east.

The U.S. and its European allies hope the U.N.-backed government can unify the country and serve as an ally against IS. U.S. special forces have been on the ground, working with Libyan officials, and U.S. warplanes have carried out airstrikes. Libyan officials say small teams of French, British and Italian commandos are also on the ground helping militiamen battling IS in the eastern city of Benghazi, though those three countries have not confirmed their presence.

The establishment of a unity government could pave the way for lifting an arms embargo on Libya, allowing Western countries to provide greater support to local forces.


This image released by the Media office of the Unity Government (GNA MEDIA) on Wednesday, March 30, 2016 shows Fayez Serraj, right, a U.N.-brokered Libyan unity government on arrival in Tripoli, Libya. He arrived by sea with six deputies to set up a temporary seat of power in a naval base despite threats from competing factions. (Media office of the Unity Government / GNA Media via AP)

7 hurt, homes, businesses damaged after tornado in Oklahoma

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TULSA, Okla. (AP) — At least seven people were injured after severe storms spawned multiple tornado touchdowns in northeastern Oklahoma, damaging homes and businesses, authorities said.

National Weather Service meteorologist Amy Jankowski said a tornado touched down and lifted up numerous times Wednesday night as it swept through the northern Tulsa and Owasso areas.

About one square mile of a mostly residential area sustained damage, Tulsa Fire Department spokesman Stan May said. One home was destroyed and other residences and businesses sustained roof and structural damage, he said.

A storm passes over north Tulsa, Okla., Wednesday, March 30, 2016. Multiple people were injured and authorities were evaluating the damage in northeastern Oklahoma after severe storms spawned multiple tornado touchdowns Wednesday night, authorities said. (James Gibbard/Tulsa World via AP) ONLINE OUT; KOTV OUT; KJRH OUT; KTUL OUT; KOKI OUT; KQCW OUT; KDOR OUT; TULSA OUT; TULSA ONLINE OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT

Police and fire officials were going door to door in the area to make sure everyone was accounted for. There were no immediate reports of anyone missing, May said.

“We want to check each house,” he said. “We’ve got some elderly people in the area. We want to make sure people have the medicines they need.”

Emergency Medical Services Authority, an ambulance service provider, transported seven patients, spokeswoman Kelli Bruer said. Bruer said one was in critical condition and several were in serious condition.

May said a few others suffered minor injuries but declined treatment.

Nearly 5,000 Public Service Company of Oklahoma customers lost power after the storm, but the utility said service had been restored to all but about 1,000 early Thursday morning.

The streets and water departments were assisting with road barricades and debris removal, Tulsa public information officer Michelle Allen said.

Cliff Motto, director of Owasso Emergency Management, told the Tulsa World multiple houses in the Stone Canyon neighborhood had mostly roof damage.

Nearly 9 million people in parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas were in an enhanced area of risk Wednesday, putting them in the bull’s-eye for some of the strongest storms, the national Storm Prediction Center said earlier Wednesday.

In Louisiana, the National Weather Service issued a flash-flood watch for northern parts of the state until 7 p.m. Thursday. Forecasters say multiple rounds of strong to severe thunderstorms will produce 2 to 4 inches of rain, and perhaps 6 inches in some parts of the state.

“Heavy rain from waves of storms could renew flooding over north Louisiana,” said Cynthia Palmer, a forecaster at the weather service’s office in Shreveport, Louisiana.

The ground remains saturated in that part of the state, which saw record flooding earlier this month, Palmer said.

“We will see the heaviest rain in the Monroe area of northeast Louisiana starting late this afternoon and evening and another wave on Thursday,” Palmer said Wednesday morning. “This is the area that could see up to 6 inches.”

In northern Mississippi, forecasters said thunderstorms would bring rainfall amounts of 2 to 4 inches. A flash-flood watch was in effect through Thursday evening.

As the system moves east, strong storms were expected to develop early Thursday over Alabama, where forecasters say the main threats will be tornadoes, winds of up to 70 mph, quarter-sized hail and heavy rains.

In Georgia, forecasters said more than 4 inches of rain could fall in western parts of the state.


Associated Press writers Bill Fuller in New Orleans, Jeff Martin in Atlanta and Sarah Rankin in Chicago contributed to this report. Kelli Ellis looks at the damage to her family’s home near Stone Canyon neighborhood after a tornado in Owasso, Okla., Wednesday, March 30, 2016. Multiple people were injured and authorities were evaluating the damage in northeastern Oklahoma after severe storms spawned multiple tornado touchdowns Wednesday night, authorities said. (Mike Simons/Tulsa World via AP) ONLINE OUT; KOTV OUT; KJRH OUT; KTUL OUT; KOKI OUT; KQCW OUT; KDOR OUT; TULSA OUT; TULSA ONLINE OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT

Business: Global stocks lower after Wall Street gains

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BEIJING (AP) — Global stock markets were mostly lower Thursday after Wall Street gained on expectations U.S. interest rates will stay low.

KEEPING SCORE: In early trading, France’s CAC-40 was off 1.3 percent at 4,387.89 points and Germany’s DAX retreated 0.8 percent to 9,969.20. London’s FTSE 100 shed 0.8 percent to 6,150.56. On Wednesday, the DAX gained 2.1 percent, the CAC 40 rose 2.3 percent and the FTSE 100 added 1.8 percent. On Wall Street, futures for the Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index were down 0.1 percent and 0.3 percent respectively.

ASIA’S DAY: Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 fell 0.7 percent to 16,758.67 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng retreated 0.1 percent to 20,776.70. Seoul’s Kospi shed 0.3 percent to 1,995.85 and Singapore, Bangkok and Manila also declined. The Shanghai Composite Index advanced 0.1 percent to 3,003.92 and India’s Sensex gained 0.3 percent to 25,405.28. New Zealand and Jakarta also rose.

U.S. INTEREST RATES: Traders were encouraged by U.S. Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen’s comments affirming plans to move slowly in raising rates. Analysts noted Yellen repeated previous statements they said still allow for rate hikes. “Global markets will probably still have to contend with more Fed tightening this year,” Julian Jessop of Capital Economics said in a report. But traders were reassured following suggestions by other Fed officials in favor of considering earlier rate hikes.

ANALYST’S QUOTE: “How long is this rebound going to last? No one can really give an answer at the moment; but one thing for sure is that Yellen’s re-affirmed dovish stance gave the market sufficient comfort and room to breathe,” Margaret Yang Yan of CMC Markets said in a report. “The chance of an April rate hike has diminished, and whether or not a June hike will materialize has now become more questionable.”

WALL STREET: Stocks rose Wednesday as technology companies traded higher and consumer companies gained steam. The financial sector recovered some of its losses. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 83.55 points, or 0.5 percent, to 17,716.66. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gained 8.94 points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,063.95. The Nasdaq composite index added 22.67 points, or 0.5 percent, to 4,869.29.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell 72 cents to $37.60 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 4 cents on Wednesday to close at $38.32. Brent crude, used to price international oils, shed 47 cents to $39.58 in London. It advanced 20 cents on Wednesday to $40.05.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 112.43 yen from Wednesday’s 112.35 yen. The euro edged up to $1.1348 from $1.1335.

Relationship: 7 Things You Should Never Say To Your Mate

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Besides money, love is one of the most sought after treasures in life. Having a loved one, wife, husband, significant other, whatever you want to call them, to go through life with is invaluable. So, why run them off with your words? Talking to over 100 couples and singles, here are the phrases that they don’t want to hear.

1. “You’re being crazy.”
You might think he/she is overreacting or even over-analyzing, but in healthy a relationship, you should try your very hardest to understand your partner’s perspective. Dismissing their feelings as “crazy”, “ridiculous” or even “silly” downgrades their stake in the relationship and diminishes their value.

When your partner doesn’t feel like they’re allowed to communicate their thoughts and feelings openly, it leads to resentment and decay that wears away your connection. Instead of demeaning your partner’s feelings, try to understand why they feel or believe what they do. Saying something like: “Help me understand why you are reacting like this” or “Why do you feel so strongly”

2. “I don’t care anymore.”
If any phrase is dangerous, this is it. Immediate red flag. It’s a clear marker on the pathway to divorce is when one or both spouses become disinterested in the actions of the other, said Christian Denmon, a Florida-based divorce attorney. Going so far as to tell your partner you’ve checked out speaks volumes.

“It’s such a blunt way of conveying disinterest,” he said. “A better option is to take a deep breath and decide what you’re really feeling. If you truly don’t care anymore, that’s a problem and counseling should be sought. But if you’re just tired of fighting, make it clear and table the conversation.”

3. “You/I/We will never ______.”
Wow. If you’re saying something in absolute phrases (i.e., “You never”, “I always”, “We never…”) you better be sure that it truly is as you say. If someone just does it occasionally and it gets on your nerves every time they do it, then say that! Speaking in absolutes turns most person completely off or pushes them in the same direction that you want them furthest from. A mate thinks “Oh you think I do that all the time? I’ll show you all the time…”

A better way to communicate is to name how you felt rather than accusing your partner. Say something like, “When you do ______, it makes me feel angry or like you don’t care. I would really rather you do _____ instead.”

4. Nothing at all.
Saying nothing at all can cause more damage to your marriage than any statement on this list. When one partner withdraws from the interaction or argument, it effectively closes themselves off to what the other spouse has to say. It puts up a wall and totally disregards what the person was saying or feeling, hoping that it will just go away. But we have news for you: it won’t go away.

Instead of putting up a wall, take a direct approach by being honest. Either say something like “I know this is uncomfortable, but I’d like to talk about it” or “I want to answer you, but I’m thinking of the best way to say it first”

5. ¨I want a divorce.¨
It seems obvious, but some people throw around the “D” word as a power play. Threatening divorce when you don’t really want one chips away at the foundation of your marriage.

“If it’s a threat and not a carefully thought-out decision, it can move your marriage down a road you might not be ready to take,” she said. “If you don’t really want to split up, don’t say you do! If you’re angry and frustrated with your spouse, instead of threatening divorce, try going for a walk or going to the gym. Clear your head. When you come back, you’ll be in a much better place to talk.”

6. “I don’t want to try”
Don’t mistake this for “I’m tired of trying” — they are two totally different phrases. We all know marriages and truly meaningful partnerships are hard work and you have to try and try again. But when a person says they don’t want to try, it’s like they’re giving up. Have they given up and what are they giving up on: you, the relationship or both?

Instead of saying you don’t want to try, just remind your partner that whatever it is, it is hard or difficult, so it may take you awhile. But only say it if you truly mean it.

7. “Why can’t you be more like him?¨
Nothing does more damage than comparing your spouse to someone else. Do you really want to be with him/her? Well, why aren’t you with them? Stop making comparisons to other people’s husbands or wives, or even your co-workers.

No man or woman wants to hear that you think some other guy or gal is better and that’s especially true for men. It’s demeaning.

Instead of making comparisons, try appreciating what your spouse does do for you. It might just motivate him or her to do more of the same.

Lifestyles: Drink This At Night To Shrink Your Stomach While You Sleep

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(PhatzNewsRoom / BlackDoctor.org)   —-    The one part of the body that nearly everyone complains about wanting to trim down is of course the stomach, the midsection aka your belly.

Getting rid of belly fat can prove to be a difficult for many of us.  Most of us want try to slim down our belly, but end up losing other parts of our body that we want to keep or vice versa. However, have you ever heard that abs are made in the kitchen?  It’s true.  It’s what you eat that helps build up your metabolism and break down the fat around your midsection.  So whatever you’re putting in your body is to blame for your gut. Now there’s a way to slim it down while you sleep. Yes, while you sleep.

Your metabolism works fastest during periods of spontaneous growth, such as during infancy or adolescence. Additionally, because men generally have a naturally higher ratio of muscle to fat, their metabolisms are often faster than those of women. One simple way to speed up the metabolism and eliminate belly fat is to put into your body the very thing that does both of those. And you could accomplish this best in drink form

Using a blend of one cucumber, parsley or cilantro, one lemon, a tablespoon of grated fresh ginger, a tablespoon of Aloe Vera juice, and half a glass of water can begin to work wonders on your belly fat. Cucumbers contain only forty-five calories each, along with a high water and fiber content. Parsley and cilantro are also low in calories, and high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to aid the body in counteracting the deterioration of stored food products. Put all of these together and you will start to change your body’s reaction to added fat.

There’s three main ingredients why this works:

Lemons help to flush out toxins the body has collected over the course of the day.

Ginger prevents overeating and constipation. Various studies have also recognized ginger’s ability to speed up the body’s metabolic rate.

Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera Juice works to stimulate one’s metabolism, and steadies and decreases the body mass index. Because the metabolism slows down significantly during rest, it is best to consume this drink just before bed. Increasing metabolic rate during sleep aids in the calorie burning process.

Pour a glass tonight. This coupled with a proper diet will help shrink the midsection. Additionally, the drink will curb some of your appetite for the more fatty meals.

Lifestyles: 5 Things Getting In The Way Of A Good Night’s Sleep

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(PhatzNewsRoom / BlackDoctor.org)  —-    As you become older, your sleep patterns can change and become inconsistent based on hormonal changes and your internal clock, also known as circadian rhythm. According to the National Sleep Foundation, circadian rhythm regulates “the timing of periods of sleepiness and wakefulness throughout the day.” Disruptions in your body’s natural sleep/wake cycle can impact weight gain/loss, mental health and whether you experience increased risk for heart-related events such as heart attack and stroke.

Since sleep is so important to helping your body function better, it is important to know what may be coming between you and a good night’s sleep.

Here are some factors which could cause you to lose sleep:

1. Caffeine and alcohol intake. Too much caffeine and alcohol can disrupt your sleep patterns. When you drink caffeine, which is a stimulant, it moves into your bloodstream and stays in your system for about six hours before half of the caffeine is eliminated. The more caffeine you drink, the more it stays in and stimulates your system.

Alcohol is a depressant but has a similar effect. Alcohol causes you to relax initially, but works against you getting deeper more restful sleep. Alcohol impacts your rapid eye movement, also known as your REM or deep sleep. While you may initially fall asleep after having alcohol, it disrupts your sleep as the night goes on and you have less REM sleep.

2. Loneliness can cause sleepless nights. Feeling as though you are alone or as though you have a lack of support from others in your life can impact your sleep patterns. A small study from the University of Chicago found that participants who felt lonely experienced more nighttime disruptions and restlessness.

If you are feeling lonely and believe this could be impacting your sleep, build a support system around you. When people have a support system, this helps them to achieve better rest. Develop friendships and networks with people who can be there when you are going through tough times so you don’t feel as though you are dealing with things on your own. Additionally, staying active in the community, doing volunteer work or participating in hobbies can help you to counter those feelings of loneliness.

3. Working the night shift can throw off your body’s internal clock. Your internal clock can impact and shape much of your sleep cycle, but insomnia can set in if you try to sleep outside of your normal sleep patterns. If you work the late night shift you may have moments in which you dose off or become extremely tired because working through the night is counter to your normal sleeping pattern.

If you work the night shift, here are a couple of things you can do so that you do not become sleep deprived. Limit your caffeine intake to the first part of your shift, but eliminate caffeine intake during the second shift. After your shift, go home and go to sleep. Avoid running errands or doing other things. Finally, since sunlight stimulates your circadian rhythm, limit the sunlight in your room when you are sleeping. Blackout blinds or heavy drapes can help you block sunlight during the day and help you sleep better. By establishing a regular sleep routine after your shift, it will allow you to sleep more soundly.

4. Sleeping with your pets might be keeping you awake. In a study conducted by Mayo Clinic, researchers found that 53% of pet owners who slept with their pets had disrupted sleep every single night. In this same study only 1% of pet owners felt that their sleep was impacted by sleeping with their pets. And of these pet owners, 21% of the pet owners admitted that their dogs were snorers, and 7% said their cats snored.

So that you and your pets get more sound sleep, have your pets sleep outside your bedroom or at least on the floor versus in your bed.

5. Light can play havoc with your sleep patterns. Light plays an important part on your sleep and wake cycle. Too much light can make it difficult to fall asleep and impact your circadian rhythm. Light impacts your internal sleep clock through something called “light sensitive” cells which sit in the retina of the eyes. These cells signal to your brain whether it is night or day and directly impacts sleep patterns.

We also have light exposure in the late evenings with artificial light from clocks, computers and cell phones, which impacts your internal clock and sleep cycles leading you to prefer going to sleep later than you normally would.

Limit your exposure to bright light during the periods before you are going to bed. Be cognizant of constantly looking at your phone, computer or having bright lights on as you prepare to go to sleep.

Having healthy sleep habits is key to your health and peace of mind. Knowing what impacts your sleep is the first step to having more sound sleep. Sleep well!

Analysis: For Trump, few limits to win-at-any-cost approach

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Sitting on his plush private plane surrounded by a gaggle of reporters, Donald Trump laid bare the depths of his win-at-any-cost political philosophy.

“Nothing is presidential except victory,” he said Tuesday. “Victory is presidential.”

Very little about Trump’s surprising White House campaign has fit into any traditional view of what’s deemed “presidential” — the kind of know-it-if-you-see-it behavior befitting an occupant of the Oval Office.

Indeed, that’s part of the draw for Trump’s supporters, many of whom praise the businessman’s willingness to dispense with political correctness.

Yet even with the built-in expectation that Trump is running an atypical campaign, the Republican front-runner continues to surprise with how far he’s willing to go in busting boundaries that restrain other presidential candidates. While he’s suggested that he would be more of a statesman if he’s the GOP nominee, encouraging Republican Party unity and promising to moderate his abrasive tone, he can’t seem to resist the lure of a bareknuckle political brawl.

The latest surreal scene played out Tuesday, when Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was charged with simple battery for an altercation with a female reporter who was working for a conservative news outlet. Lewandowski is Trump’s closest and most visible adviser, a constant presence at campaign events and the gatekeeper for who gets access to the real estate mogul.

He’s also nearly single-handedly steered Trump’s campaign within sight of victory in the Republican nominating contest.

Most presidential campaigns move quickly to shut down a firestorm over a staffer regardless of rank, particularly if legal issues are involved. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz abruptly fired one of his top aides earlier this year after the adviser posted a video online that inaccurately portrayed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio as disparaging the Bible.

But Trump chose to fan the flames of the controversy surrounding Lewandowski. He vigorously defended his adviser and predicted no jury would convict him. He also accused journalist Michelle Fields of trying to destroy Lewandowski’s life and questioned the origin of bruises on Fields’ arm that she says were the result of the campaign manager’s manhandling.

“How do you know those bruises weren’t there before?” Trump said, his every word being blasted out live on cable news. At a campaign rally in Janesville, Wisconsin, he polled his crowd on whether they’d seen video of the incident. “What did you think, right?” he asked them. “Nothing.”

Trump’s comments come amid sharp criticism from Democrats, as well as some Republicans, of derogatory statements he’s made about women — both during this campaign and during his extensive public life before entering politics. He’s embroiled in a heated controversy involving an unflattering image of Cruz’s wife that he highlighted on Twitter, as well as a vague and ominous threat he made on Twitter to “spill the beans” about Heidi Cruz.

Following the charge against Lewandowski, the Texas senator accused Trump of running a campaign “built on attacks” and said there’s “no place in politics for insults, for personal attacks, for going to the gutter, and there should be no place for physical violence either.”

Women comprise a powerful share of persuadable voters in the general election. And even as Trump is still trying to lock down the GOP nomination, he’s struggling with the women he would need to win the White House.

A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found 70 percent of women had a negative opinion of Trump. Nearly three quarters of women overall, and 39 percent of Republican women, had an unfavorable view of him in a recent CNN poll.

Yet some women who comprise Trump’s supremely loyal legion of supporters say they see little wrong with Lewandowski’s actions and the response from their favored candidate.

“It’s all ridiculous to me because I don’t think grabbing someone’s arm to restrain them is battery,” said Carlene Summers, a 72-year-old who attended Trump’s rally Tuesday in Janesville, Wisconsin. “I used to work on a school playground and I restrained quite a few kids and I never got in trouble for battery.”

It’s the tension between the voters Trump needs to win now as he tries to wrap up the GOP nomination and those he needs on his side in November that highlights the weakness in his boundary-pushing approach to the campaign. Beyond his comments about women, he’s also been harsh in his depiction of immigrants, including calling Mexicans crossing into the United States murderers and rapists.

While Republicans have long grappled with both appealing to more conservative primary voters and a broader general election audience, the challenge they’ve faced has focused largely on modulating their policy positions.

It’s deeply uncertain whether Trump can make the same pivot when his words and his actions seem as focused on the personal as they do on the policy.


Associated Press writer Jill Colvin in Janesville, Wisconsin, contributed to this report. Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a rally in Janesville, Wis., Tuesday, March 29, 2016. (Anthony Wahl/The Janesville Gazette via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT


Julie Pace has covered the White House and politics for The Associated Press since 2007. Follow her on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jpaceDC

Afghan official: Fight with Taliban kills 15 security troops

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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) — At least 15 members of the Afghan security forces have been killed in a gunbattle with the Taliban in volatile southern Uruzgan province, an official said on Wednesday.

The fighting took place late Tuesday night during an operation to reopen an important highway in the province, said Mohammad Nabi Niazo, the Dihrawud district police chief.

Taliban gunmen had blocked the highway between Dihrawud and the provincial capital, Tarin Kot, for almost four days, he said.

Following the deadly firefight, Afghan forces have retaken control of the road, Niazo added. Eight members of the security forces were wounded during the operation.

However, Taliban spokesman Qari Yousaf Ahmadi told The Associated Press that the battle for control of the highway is still going on. The insurgents often exaggerate their battlefield prowess.

Niazo had no information of any insurgent casualties during the battle.

The Taliban have in recent months stepped up their attacks in Uruzgan and neighboring provinces in the south, including the Taliban heartland of Helmand where much of the world’s illicit opium is produced. The crop, along with other contraband, funds the insurgency, now in its fifteenth year.

US orders diplomatic, military families out of south Turkey

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department and Pentagon ordered the families of U.S. diplomats and military personnel Tuesday to leave posts in southern Turkey due to “increased threats from terrorist groups” in the country.

The two agencies said dependents of American staffers at the U.S. consulate in Adana, the Incirlik air base and two other locations must leave. The so-called “ordered departure” notice means the relocation costs will be covered by the government.

Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said no specific threat triggered the order, but said it was done “out of an abundance of caution” for the safety of the families in that region. He said he was not aware of a deadline for the families to leave, but said “this will move very quickly.”

In a statement, the military’s European Command said the step “allows for the deliberate, safe return of family members from these areas due to continued security concerns in the region.”

The orders cover the Adana consulate, U.S. military dependents in Incirlik, Ismir and Mugla as well as family of U.S. government civilians at Ismir and Mugla. The State Department also restricted official travel to that which it considers “mission critical.” Cook said that the order does not affect about 100 family members who are based in Istanbul and Ankara.

The move comes amid heightened security concerns throughout Turkey due to the ongoing fight against Islamic State militants in neighboring Syria and Iraq and was accompanied by an updated travel warning advising U.S. citizens of an increased threat of attacks. It also comes as Turkey’s president is set to arrive in Washington to attend President Barack Obama’s nuclear security summit.

“We understand this is disruptive to our military families, but we must keep them safe and ensure the combat effectiveness of our forces to support our strong ally Turkey in the fight against terrorism,” the European Command statement said.

Incirlik is a critical base in the fight by the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group, and includes strike aircraft, drones and refueling planes.

Turkey’s decision last year to allow the coalition to conduct airstrikes with aircraft based at Incirlik shortened the time and distance required to conduct airstrikes in Syria and Iraq, compared with strikes flown from bases in the Persian Gulf area. And it increased the number of U.S. personnel at the base.

NATO’s Allied Land Command is based at Ismir and there is a Turkish base at Mugla where some U.S. military personnel go for training and other missions.

It was not immediately clear how many family members would be affected in total. The Pentagon said the order would affect about 680 military family members and roughly 270 pets. The State Department and Pentagon had begun a voluntary drawdown of staff at the two posts last September after Turkey announced it would take a greater role in the fight against Islamic State militants.

At the time, military officials said they had recommended the voluntary departure from Incirlik because of specific calls by militants for lone wolf attacks against the air base.

On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry met with Turkish Foreign Mevlut Cavusoglu. State Department spokesman John Kirby said the two discussed measures to secure the Turkey-Syria border and disrupt extremist networks.

According to a U.S. official, the decision to order families to leave stemmed from the ongoing assessment of security threats in Turkey. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, so spoke on condition of anonymity.

The decision comes a day after Israel issued a new travel advisory for Turkey, warning its citizens to leave the country as soon as possible and to avoid any traveling there.


FILE – In this July 28, 2015 file photo, a U.S. Navy plane maneuvers on the runway of the Incirlik Air Base, in Adana, in the outskirts of the city of Adana, southeastern Turkey. The State Department and Pentagon ordered the families of U.S. diplomats and military personnel Tuesday, March 29, 2016, to leave posts in southern Turkey due to “increased threats from terrorist groups” in the country. The two agencies said dependents of American staffers at the U.S. consulate in Adana, the Incirlik air base and two other locations must leave. The so-called “ordered departure” notice means the relocation costs will be covered by the government. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel, File)

Unusual dissent erupts inside Cuban Communist Party

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HAVANA (AP) — Days after President Barack Obama’s historic visit, the leaders of Cuba’s Communist Party are under highly unusual public criticism from their own ranks for imposing new levels of secrecy on the future of social and economic reforms.

After months of simmering discontent, complaints among party members have become so heated that its official newspaper, Granma, addressed them in a lengthy front-page article Monday, saying the public dissatisfaction is “a sign of the democracy and public participation that are intrinsic characteristics of the socialism that we’re constructing.”

The article did little to calm many party members, some of whom are calling for a Communist Party congress next month to be postponed to allow public debate about the government’s plans to continue market-oriented reforms for Cuba’s centrally controlled economy.

“The base of the party is angry, and rightly so,” party member and noted intellectual Esteban Morales wrote in a blog post published before Obama’s visit. “We’ve gone backward in terms of democracy in the party, because we’ve forgotten about the base, those who are fighting and confronting our problems on a daily basis.”

Across the country, Cuba’s ruling party is facing stiff challenges as it tries to govern an increasingly cynical and disenchanted population.

Struggling to feed their families with state salaries around $25 a month, many ordinary Cubans see their government as infuriatingly inefficient and unresponsive to the needs of average people. The open anger among prominent party members in the middle of sweeping socio-economic reforms and normalization with the United States hints at a deeper crisis of credibility for the party that has controlled virtually every aspect of public life in Cuba for more than a half century.

The article in Granma appeared less than a week after Obama won an enthusiastic response from many ordinary Cubans by calling for both an end to Cold War hostility and for more political and economic freedom on the island. The unsigned article shared the front page with Fidel Castro’s sharply worded response to Obama, in which the 89-year-old father of Cuba’s socialist system said, “My modest suggestion is that he reflect and doesn’t try to develop theories about Cuban politics.”

Many Cubans are skeptical of free-market capitalism, wary of American power and cannot envision a society without the free health care and education put in place by the 1959 revolution. Party member Francisco Rodriguez, a gay activist and journalist for a state newspaper, said Obama’s nationally televised speech in Old Havana, his news conference with 84-year-old President Raul Castro and a presidential forum with Cuban entrepreneurs represented a sort of “capitalist evangelizing” that many party members dislike.

Rodriguez told The Associated Press that Obama’s well-received addresses to the Cuban people had nonetheless increased pressure on the 700,000-member Communist Party to forge a more unified and credible vision of the future.

“Obama’s visit requires us, going forward, to work on debating and defending our social consensus about the revolution,” Rodriguez said.

While Cuba’s non-elected leaders maintain tight control of the party and the broader system, the last party congress in 2011 was preceded by months of vigorous debate at party meetings about detailed documents laying out reforms that have shrunk the state bureaucracy and allowed a half million Cubans to start work in the private sector.

In the run-up to the party congress scheduled to begin April 16, no documents have been made public, no debate has taken place and many of the party’s best-known members remain in the dark about the next phase of Cuba’s reforms.

Granma said 1,000 high-ranking party members have been reviewing key documents.

“My dissatisfaction is rooted in the lack of discussion of the central documents, secret to this day, as much among the organizations of the party base as the rest of the population,” Rodriguez wrote in an open letter Sunday to Raul Castro, who is also the top Communist Party leader.

Under Castro’s guidance, the 2011 party congress helped loosen state control of Cuban’s economic options and some personal freedoms, moving the country toward more self-employment, greater freedom to travel and greater ability to sell personal cars and real estate. The Granma article argued that the months of debate before the approval of those reforms made a new round of public discussion unnecessary. It also acknowledged that only 21 percent of the reforms had been completed as planned.

The April 16-19 party congress “will allow us to define with greater precision the path that we must follow in order for our nation, sovereign and truly independent since Jan. 1, 1959, to construct a prosperous and sustainable socialism,” the article said.

Rodriguez, who works closely with Castro’s daughter Mariela, the director of the national Center for Sexual Education, said the Granma piece was unsatisfactory. He called for the Seventh Party Congress to be delayed, saying many fellow party members share his point of view.

In the days after the Granma article appeared about two dozen people, many identifying themselves as party members, posted lengthy comments on the paper’s government-moderated website that criticized the article and the secrecy surrounding the upcoming party congress, which is widely seen as helping mark the transition of power from the aging men who led Cuba’s revolution to a younger generation.

“It is one of the last congresses directed by the historic generation,” wrote one poster identifying himself as Leandro. “This is, I think, a bad precedent for future leaders, who will feel like they have the right to have party congresses without popular participation.”


FILE – In this April 19, 2011 file photo, Fidel Castro, left, and Cuba’s President Raul Castro talk during the 6th Communist Party Congress in Havana, Cuba. Some party members are calling for the April 2016 congress to be postponed to allow public debate about the governmentís plans to continue market-oriented reforms of Cubaís centrally controlled economy. (AP Photo/Javier Galeano, File)

Andrea Rodriguez on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ARodriguezAP

Michael Weissenstein on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mweissenstein

US to beef up military presence in Eastern Europe

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WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. officials say the Pentagon will be deploying an armored brigade combat team to Eastern Europe next February as part of the ongoing effort to rotate troops in and out of the region to reassure allies worried about threats from an increasingly aggressive Russia.

The officials said the Army will announce Wednesday that it will be sending a full set of equipment with the brigade to Europe. Earlier plans had called for the Pentagon to rotate troops into Europe, where they would have used a set of training equipment pre-positioned there.

The new proposal would remove the pre-positioned equipment, send it to be refurbished, and allow the U.S. forces to bring more robust, modern equipment in with them when they deploy. There are about 4,500 soldiers in an armored brigade, along with dozens of heavy vehicles, tanks and other equipment.

Wednesday’s announcement is also aimed at easing worries in Europe, where allies had heard rumblings about the pre-positioned equipment being removed and feared the U.S. was scaling back support.

Officials also said the Army would send additional communications equipment to Europe so that headquarters units could have the radios, computers and other equipment needed to work with the brigades.

The officials were not authorized to discuss the announcement publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.

The changes underscore promises made by defense leaders to protect Europe and send a message to Moscow that any aggression against allies would be unacceptable. And they provide more details to budget proposals rolled out earlier this year that quadrupled military aid to Europe and called for a more constant rotational presence.

Over the past nine months, during trips to Eastern Europe and in NATO meetings, Defense Secretary Ash Carter has pledged additional military support for the region.

Last June, while visiting Estonia, Carter announced the U.S. would spread about 250 tanks, armored vehicles and other military equipment across six former Soviet bloc nations to help reassure NATO allies facing threats from Russia and terrorist groups. Each set of equipment would be enough to outfit a military unit, and would go on at least a temporary basis to Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania.

The equipment could also be moved around the region for training and military exercises, and would include Bradley fighting vehicles and self-propelled howitzer artillery guns.

In February, the Pentagon announced it would seek $3.4 billion in the 2017 budget to increase troop rotations and military exercises in Europe. The plan essentially calls for the constant presence of a third brigade in Europe. Two are already permanently stationed in Europe — a Stryker brigade and an airborne brigade. And now a brigade will rotate in and out, likely every nine months or so, on a continual basis.

The 2016 budget included about $780 million for the so-called European reassurance initiative, which covered the costs of sending hundreds of U.S. troops in and out of Europe for short deployments, military exercises and other training missions.

Carter’s proposal to quadruple that amount would allow the U.S. to send more troops to Europe for short-term deployments and also provide additional equipment and improve facilities so that more forces could be accommodated.

The increased U.S. military support comes a year after the Defense Department unveiled sweeping plans to consolidate its forces in Europe, taking thousands of U.S. military and civilian personnel out of bases mostly in the United Kingdom and Portugal, in an effort that was expected to save about $500 million each year.

But, Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine over the past year and its annexation of the Crimea region has worried Eastern European nations, which fear they may be next.

The latest Pentagon moves are seen as an effort to deter Russia from taking any further aggressive action against any other European nations.


Defense Secretary Ash Carter honors Vietnam Veteran Thomas Snee, who served in the Navy, with a commemorative pin to mark the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War at the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, Tuesday, March 29, 2016. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)

Flint official: State overruled plan for corrosion control

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FLINT, Mich. (AP) — Shortly before this poverty-stricken city began drawing its drinking water from the Flint River in April 2014 in a cost-cutting move, officials huddled at the municipal water treatment plant, running through a checklist of final preparations.

Mike Glasgow, the plant’s laboratory supervisor at the time, says he asked district engineer Mike Prysby of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality how often staffers would need to check the water for proper levels of phosphate, a chemical they intended to add to prevent lead corrosion from the pipes. Prysby’s response, according to Glasgow: “You don’t need to monitor phosphate because you’re not required to add it.”

Recalling the meeting Tuesday in an interview with The Associated Press, Glasgow said he was taken aback by the state regulator’s instruction; treating drinking water with anti-corrosive additives was routine practice. Glasgow said his gaze shifted to a consulting firm engineer in attendance, who also looked surprised.

“Then,” Glasgow said, “we went on to the next question.”

In hindsight, he said, it was a fateful moment. For nearly 18 months, Flint residents would drink water that had coursed through aging pipes and fixtures, scraping away lead from lines that ran from water mains to some homes and schools.

By the time Gov. Rick Snyder announced in October 2015 that Flint would return to the Detroit system, from which it had bought treated Lake Huron water for decades, scientists and doctors had reported dangerously high levels of lead in numerous water samples and a spike in the proportion of children with elevated lead in their blood. Even low amounts of lead are a health threat, especially for young children, as it is linked to lower IQs and behavioral problems.

Flint residents still are advised not to drink unfiltered tap water.

In a report last week, a task force appointed by Snyder to investigate the water crisis described the state as “fundamentally accountable,” partly because of the DEQ’s instruction to omit corrosion controls. It also assigned lesser blame to the state Department of Health and Human Services, local and federal agencies and emergency managers Snyder had appointed to oversee city operations.

The report did not fault Prysby alone among DEQ officials. The department’s former director, Dan Wyant, and its chief spokesman resigned in December. Snyder later fired Liane Shekter Smith, former chief of the DEQ’s Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance. Another official has been suspended.

But during a hearing Tuesday in Flint before a legislative committee investigating the catastrophe, Glasgow said it was Prysby who told him that federal regulations on lead and copper pollution required testing the water for two consecutive six-month periods before deciding whether to apply corrosion controls.

The DEQ later would admit that was a misreading of the rules, which instead require systems serving more than 50,000 people to install and maintain corrosion control treatment.

Prysby has declined previous AP requests for an interview. He could not be reached for comment after the hearing.

“I did have some concerns and misgivings at first,” Glasgow told the committee. “But unfortunately, now that I look back, I relied on engineers and the state regulators to kind of direct the decision. I looked at them as having more knowledge than myself.”

Lee-Anne Walters, who helped draw official attention to the problem after high lead levels were discovered at her house, told the AP that learning of Prysby’s instruction to the city made her “nauseous.”

“That one meeting was the difference between this city being poisoned and not being poisoned,” she said.

Walters, who says her children have been sickened by the lead-tainted water, was among numerous city residents who testified before the committee, some weeping and pounding the table in anger as they demanded Snyder’s resignation and more funding to care for people who have suffered.

“I’m begging you — help us,” a tearful Barbie Biggs said.

Walters described a frustrating struggle to convince government officials the problem was real. She eventually contacted Marc Edwards, a Virginia Tech engineering professor, whose team tested Flint’s water and found elevated lead content.

Edwards later told the AP he was mystified by the failure to use corrosion controls, saying he had never heard of such a decision elsewhere in 25 years of studying lead contamination of drinking water.

“Corrosion control is the best investment a utility can make,” he said.

State Sen. Joe Hune, a Republican from Hamburg, asked Glasgow during the hearing why he didn’t disregard Prysby’s instructions and add the phosphate. Glasgow responded that he had always respected the DEQ’s judgment and added that it would have taken up to six months to acquire and install equipment for the treatments. (It wasn’t until last December that the Flint plant finally got a corrosion control system.)

Glasgow, who last year became the city’s utilities administrator, said pressure from superiors to move quickly also influenced him. Less than two weeks before the switchover to the Flint River, he had complained to another DEQ official that he needed more time for staff training and other preparations. “I will reiterate this to management above me, but they seem to have their own agenda,” he wrote in an email.

But in the AP interview, he acknowledged faulting himself for not being more assertive.

“I kick myself every day,” Glasgow said. “To know that if I could have screamed a little louder or questioned something a bit further, I could have maybe avoided all this, it’s something I’ll keep on my shoulders for the rest of my life.”


Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha testifies during a meeting of Michigan’s special Joint Committee on the Flint Water Public Health Emergency, Tuesday, March 29, 2016, at the Northbank Center in Flint, Mich. (Jake May/The Flint Journal-MLive.com via AP) LOCAL TELEVISION OUT; LOCAL INTERNET OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT

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Business: Global stocks surge as investors welcome Fed assurance

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MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Global stocks surged Wednesday as investors welcomed the latest signal from the U.S. Federal Reserve that it will move slowly to raise interest rates. Japan’s Nikkei 225 bucked the trend and closed lower.

KEEPING SCORE: Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 1.4 percent in early trading to 6,193.27. Germany’s DAX climbed 1.4 percent to 10,024.07, while France’s CAC 40 gained 1.4 percent to 4,429.74. U.S. futures augured a positive opening on Wall Street, with Dow futures up 0.5 percent to 17,628 and S&P futures rising 0.5 percent to 2,057.

ASIA’S DAY: Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 lost 1.3 percent, closing at 16,878.96, on the continuing strong yen and the trade ministry’s announcement of a 6.2 percent month-on-month drop in industrial production in February. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index climbed 2.2 percent to 20,803.39. China’s Shanghai Composite surged 2.8 percent to 3,000.65, while South Korea’s KOSPI rose 0.4 percent to 2,002.14. Australia’s S&P ASX 200 was up 0.1 percent at 5,010.30. Southeast Asian markets also rose.

ASIA’S ECONOMY: Softer growth prospects for China and a weak recovery in major industrial economies are expected to push down economic growth in developing Asia to 5.7 percent in 2016 and 2017, below previous projections, according to an Asian Development Bank report released Wednesday. The region’s economy grew 5.9 percent in 2015. The Asian Development Outlook 2016 said China’s economic growth is seen moderating to 6.5 percent this year from 6.9 percent last year and to 6.3 percent next year. Slower exports, a falling labor supply and supply-side reforms are reshaping the world’s second-largest economy toward more domestic consumption and a further reduction in excess industrial capacity, it said.

THE QUOTE: “September is now the only date the markets are pricing with a better than 50 percent probability of a (U.S.) rate hike,” said IG market analyst Angus Nicholson. “A weaker U.S. dollar not only benefits the dollar-denominated price of many commodities, which are a key export for most emerging markets, but it also lowers the burden of U.S. dollar-denominated debt in a range of emerging markets.”

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude gained 71 cents, rising to $39.00 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract shed $1.11, or 2.8 percent, to $38.28 a barrel on Tuesday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, was up 60 cents at $40.45 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar declined to 112.23 yen from 112.77 yen. The euro rose to $1.1315 from $1.1287.

Entertainment: Patty Duke, Oscar Winner and Sitcom Star, Dies at 69

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(PhatzNewsRoom / The Hollywood Reporter)   —   She received an Academy Award at 16 for playing Helen Keller in ‘The Miracle Worker’ and starred as two cousins in ‘The Patty Duke Show.’

Patty Duke, who won a best supporting actress Oscar for her performance as Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker and starred as two cousins, different as night and day, on her own sitcom, has died, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed. She was 69.

“This morning, our beloved wife, mother, matriarch and the exquisite artist and champion of mental health, Anna Patty Duke, closed her eyes, quieted her pain and ascended to a beautiful place,” read a family statement. “We celebrate the infinite love and compassion she shared through her work and throughout her life.”

Although she performed in films, theater and TV, Duke was most successful in her TV acting career. Overall, she won three Emmy Awards: The Miracle Worker, Captains and Kings and My Sweet Charlie, among eight total nominations.

She was also nominated for a Daytime Emmy for Insight. Duke won a Golden Globe as Most Promising Newcomer for The Miracle Worker,” as well as a Best Supporting Actress nomination. She won a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Actress – Musical/Comedy – for Me, Globe for “The Patty Duke Show.

Her film acting career was sporadic, peaking with her first production, The Miracle Worker and reaching most attention with Valley of the Dolls (1967) where, countering her squeaky-clean image, she played a pill-popping alcoholic. Her other film credits include: Happy Anniversary (1959), By Design (1982), Willy/Milly (1986), The Hitch-Hikers (1989), Prelude to a Kiss (1992) and Bigger Than the Sky (2005), among others.

Analysis: Officials: Brussels bombers may have rushed attack

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BRUSSELS (AP) — As police hunted for the surviving Brussels bomber, evidence mounted Wednesday that the same Islamic State cell carried out the attacks in both Paris and Brussels, and that the militants may have launched this week’s slaughter in haste because they feared authorities were closing in on them.

On a day of mourning across Belgium following Tuesday’s bombings of the Brussels airport and subway that killed 31 people and wounded more than 270, new information emerged about the four attackers:

— European security officials said one of the suicide bombers was Najim Laachraoui, a Moroccan-born Belgian whom police have hunted as the suspected bombmaker in the Nov. 13 attacks on Paris by the Islamic State that killed 130 people.

— The other two suicide bombers were Belgian-born brothers, Ibrahim El Bakraoui, and his younger brother, Khalid, both known to the police as common criminals, not anti-Western radicals.

— Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ibrahim El Bakraoui was caught in June 2015 near Turkey’s border with Syria and deported, at his own request, to the Netherlands, with Ankara warning Dutch and Belgian officials that he was a “foreign terrorist fighter.” But other Turkish officials said he was released from Dutch custody due to lack of evidence of involvement in extremism.

Details of the investigation from chief prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw pointed to a rising sense of panic among the three bombers who blew themselves up. An unidentified fourth man who was shown in airport video surveillance footage remains at large after Van Leeuw said his suitcase bomb failed to detonate properly. Authorities say he was the man in a light jacket and hat on the far right of the video footage.

Van Leeuw said the bomb did partially explode after police had already evacuated the terminal, injuring nobody.

The prosecutor said a laptop seized from a garbage can on a street outside the brothers’ last known address contained a message purportedly from Ibrahim El Bakraoui that indicated he was expecting to be arrested imminently following Friday’s capture in Brussels of the suspected ringleader of the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam.

“I don’t know what to do, I’m in a hurry, people are looking for me everywhere,” Van Leeuw quoted the message as saying. “If I give myself up I’ll end up in a cell next to him,” — an apparent reference to the just-arrested Abdeslam.

Police were drawn to the brothers’ apartment Tuesday night thanks to a tip from a taxi driver who had unwittingly delivered them to the airport, Van Leeuw said. Inside the northeast Brussels residence they found an apparent bomb-making factory, including 15 kilograms (33 pounds) of homemade explosives and nails for use as shrapnel.

Neighbors told The Associated Press they had no idea of the brothers’ activities and barely saw them until the taxi collected them and their visibly heavy bags Tuesday morning.

One neighbor, who was willing to give only his first name of Erdine, said he was about to drive his son to school when he saw the two men carrying their bags out of the building.

“The taxi driver tried to get the luggage. And the other guy reached for it like he was saying: No, I’ll take it,” the neighbor said.

At the core of the Belgian investigation is a photo taken from the airport’s surveillance cameras showing three attackers walking side by side as they push luggage carts. Van Leeuw said the middle figure has been identified as Ibrahim El Bakraoui, while the two men flanking him remained unidentified.

But two security officials told the AP that Laachraoui’s DNA was verified as that of one of Tuesday’s suicide bombers after samples were taken from remains found at the airport. One European official and one French police official spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to divulge details of the Belgian investigation. Both officials were briefed on the investigation.

Belgian officials have not publicly linked any of the remains to Laachraoui; nor have they said he was involved in the Brussels attack.

Since prosecutors said Khalid El Bakraoui was killed in the subway bombing, that would make Laachraoui the remaining unidentified figure on the far left of the airport video footage.

Belgian authorities have been looking for Laachraoui since last week, suspecting him of being an accomplice to Abdeslam, who was arrested Friday in the Brussels neighborhood where he grew up.

Laachraoui is believed to have made the suicide vests used in Paris, a French police official told the AP, adding that Laachraoui’s DNA was found on all of the vests as well as in a Brussels apartment where they were made. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation. Seven of the Paris attackers blew themselves up or were slain by police.

French and Belgian authorities have said the network behind the Paris attacks was much larger than initially thought — and developments this week suggest the same group could have staged the violence both in Paris and Brussels.

“It’s the same team,” said a French senator, Nathalie Goulet, who is co-leader of a parliamentary commission on studying jihadi networks.

She said Abdeslam should have had little difficulty organizing more recruits following his November escape from France.

“He probably had 10 more at hand who would be ready to do the same thing tomorrow morning,” she said, describing his Brussels acolytes as “like a scout troop … a troop of death.”

A Belgian official working on the investigation told AP it is a “plausible hypothesis” that Abdeslam was helping to organize the Brussels attack. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the investigation.

The comments by the Turkish president that Ibrahim El Bakraoui was determined by his country to be a militant fighter and then deported to Europe could raise embarrassing questions for Western security officials.

But a Turkish official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly said the bomber was allowed to go free because Belgian authorities could not establish any ties to extremism.

Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens said authorities would have no reason to have detained Ibrahim El Bakraoui last year as an Islamic State suspect because he was “not known for terrorist acts but as a common law criminal who was on conditional release.”

Ibrahim El Bakraoui, 29, received a nine-year prison sentence in 2010 for shooting at police following an attempted robbery of a currency exchange, while Khalid El Bakraoui, 27, served a brief sentence for attempted carjacking.

Belgian state broadcaster RTBF, citing sources it did not identify, said Khalid El Bakraoui had rented an apartment that police raided last week in an operation that directly led to Abdeslam’s arrest at another apartment just a few streets away from his parents’ home.

Wednesday was the first of three official days of mourning, and thousands gathered at the Place de la Bourse, a central square in Brussels, to remember the victims.

“Long live Belgium!” some declared.

The attacks badly rattled Brussels’ transportation links. Several subway stations in the city center and at the airport remained closed. Officials at the airport, which typically handles 600 flights daily, said it would remain shut down until at least Saturday.

Many of the dead remained unidentified, partly because of the severity of devastation caused by the nail-packed bombs detonated in crowds. Eleven people were confirmed dead at the airport, 20 inside the Maelbeek subway station.

In a second claim of responsibility Wednesday, the Islamic State group warned of further attacks and what it called “dark days” for countries involved in attacking IS positions in Syria and Iraq.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said major cultural and sports events should not be postponed for fear of attack. He said that includes the monthlong European soccer tournament being staged throughout France in June.

A planned soccer match between Belgium and Portugal, originally scheduled for March 29 in Brussels, was moved to Portugal.


Associated Press reporters Raphael Satter, Danica Kirka and Lorne Cook in Brussels, Lori Hinnant and Elaine Ganley in Paris, Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, Jill Lawless in London and Shawn Pogatchnik in Dublin contributed to this report. Updated identifies Najim Laachraoui as the third Brussels bomber: map locates Brussels airport and Maelbeek metro station the locations of deadly terrorist bombings; 2c x 3 1/2 inches; 96.3 mm x 88 mm;

Retaking Syria’s Palmyra reveals more shattered antiquities

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DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — The recapture of Syria’s ancient city of Palmyra from the Islamic State group has brought new revelations of the destruction wreaked by the extremists, who decapitated priceless statues and smashed or looted artifacts in the city’s museum.

Experts say they need time to assess the full extent of damage in Palmyra, a UNESCO world heritage site boasting 2,000-year-old Roman-era colonnades and other ruins, which once attracted tens of thousands of tourists every year. Syrian troops drove IS out on Sunday, some 10 months after the militants seized the town.

The world knew through satellite images and IS videos that the militants destroyed the Temple of Bel, which dated back to A.D. 32, the Temple of Baalshamin, which was several stories high and fronted by six towering columns, and the Arch of Triumph, which was built under the Roman emperor Septimius Severus between A.D. 193 and A.D. 211.

But no one knew the extent of the damage inside the museum until a Syrian TV reporter entered on Sunday and found the floor littered with shattered statues. A sculpture of the Greek goddess Athena was decapitated, and the museum’s basement appeared to have been dynamited or hit with a shell.

Some of the damage may have been caused by shelling, which would have knocked the statues from their stands. In the Syrian TV footage from inside the museum, a hole can be seen in the ceiling, most likely from an artillery shell.

Unlike in the Iraqi city of Mosul, where IS militants filmed themselves with sledgehammers proudly destroying ancient artifacts, no militant video was released from Palmyra’s museum.

Before Palmyra fell to IS, authorities were able to relocate more than 400 statues and hundreds of artifacts to safe areas, but larger statues couldn’t be moved, according to the head of antiquities and museums, Maamoun Abdul-Karim. He told the AP that about 20 statues were defaced and others had their heads chopped off. State media had earlier reported that a 2nd century lion statue, previously thought to have been destroyed by IS, was damaged but could be restored.

Abdul-Karim said he was relieved that many of the statues had only been disfigured and not demolished. “It’s like having a person whose face was burnt. He is not as good looking as he used to be but he is still alive,” he said.

He said officials have a list of all the statues that were left behind in Palmyra when IS captured the town, which will help in documenting the damage.

Amr al-Azm, a former Syrian antiquities official who is now a professor at Shawnee State University in Ohio, is less sanguine.

“The level of destruction and vandalism inside the museum is much more significant than we had realized,” he said. Smashing up statues’ faces “means that there is nothing left,” he added.

The Sunni extremist group, which has imposed a violent interpretation of Islamic law across the territory it controls in Syria and Iraq, claims ancient relics promote idolatry. But it is also believed to have profited from looted antiquities.

That may explain why the militants killed the archaeological site’s 81-year-old director, Khaled al-Asaad, who was beheaded last August after he reportedly refused to say where authorities had hidden some of the town’s treasures.

Al-Asaad, who was among scores of people killed by the extremists after they seized the town, had devoted his life to studying Palmyra, and could have played an invaluable role in documenting the damage and restoring its antiquities.

It will take time to assess the extent of the losses and determine if IS carried out excavations or smuggled artifacts out. But the initial findings suggest at least some of the damage is permanent.

Martin Makinson, an archaeologist who lived and worked in Syria until 2011, said the Temple of Baalshamin “was pretty much obliterated,” along with three ancient tombs. He said the inner sanctum of the Temple of Bel was also destroyed.

“Unfortunately the damage that ISIS has caused to the site is pretty irreparable and it would be a sort of reconstruction in some sectors,” Makinson said, using another acronym for IS.

Al-Azm said highly specialized teams will have to go into the hardest-hit areas “to start to document and record each and every stone to try and see what can be restored.” He said IS had specifically targeted the most important monuments.

Asked how bad the damage is, Al-Azm replied: “On the scale of one to 10 it is 10. The only other thing that causes that much damage to a city is probably some earthquake that struck at some time. It was pretty devastating.”


This story has been corrected to show that the first name of the antiquities official killed by militants is Khaled, not Riad. This photo released on Sunday March 27, 2016, by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows destroyed statues at the damaged Palmyra Museum, in Palmyra city, central Syria. The amount of destruction found inside the archaeological area in the historic town was similar to what experts have expected but the shock came Monday from inside the local museum where the extremists have caused wide damage demolishing invaluable statues that were torn to pieces. (SANA via AP)

Egyptian plane hijacked to Cyprus, most passengers released

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LARNACA, Cyprus (AP) — An Egyptian man hijacked an EgyptAir plane Tuesday and forced it to land in Cyprus, where most passengers were eventually allowed to get off, though four crew members and three passengers remained on board with the hijacker, Egyptian and Cypriot officials said.

The man’s motivation was unclear, but Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said the hijacking was “not something that has to do with terrorism” and a Cyprus government official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation, said the man “seems (to be) in love.”

A civil aviation official, also speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t allowed to disclose details of ongoing negotiations, said the man gave negotiators the name of a woman who lives in Cyprus and asked to give her an envelope. It’s unclear what relationship she and the man have.

Map shows flight path of hijacked EgyptAir plane; 1c x 3 inches; 46.5 mm x 76 mm;

Flight MS181 took off from the Mediterranean coastal city of Alexandria en route to Cairo with at least 55 passengers, including 26 foreigners, and a seven-member crew.

An official with flight-tracking website FlightRadar24 said the plane showed no immediate signs of distress. The flight between Alexandria and Cairo normally takes about 30 minutes.

There was some confusion about the hijacker’s identity. At a news conference in Cairo, Egypt’s Civil Aviation minister, Sharif Fathi, refused to identify him.

Earlier, Egyptian government spokesman Hossam al-Queish said the hijacker was Ibrahim Samaha, but an Egyptian woman who identified herself as Samaha’s wife said her husband is not the hijacker and was on his way to Cairo so he could fly to the U.S. to attend a conference.

The woman, who identified herself only as Nahla, told the Egyptian private TV network ONTV in a phone interview that her husband had never been to Cyprus and that a photo on Egyptian and regional TV channels that supposedly showed the hijacker was not him. Later, the official Middle East News Agency gave a different name for the hijacker.

Al-Queish, the government spokesman, also told the private CBC TV network that authorities could not confirm that the hijacker had explosives on him. An earlier statement from the Egyptian Aviation Ministry said the man claimed he had a belt with explosives.

The plane landed at the airport in the southern Cypriot city of Larnaca, also on the Mediterranean. A statement from the Egyptian Civil Aviation Ministry statement said the foreigners on board included eight Americans, four Britons, four Dutch, two Belgians, a French national, an Italian, two Greeks and one Syrian. Three other foreigners could not be identified. Fathi did not give the nationalities of those who remained on the plane.

The incident raises more questions about security at Egyptian airports, five months after a Russian aircraft crashed over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula minutes after it took off from Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

All 224 people on board were killed in the crash. Russia later said an explosive device brought down the aircraft and the extremist Islamic State group took responsibility.


Hendawi reported from Cairo. Maggie Michael in Cairo contributed to this report. A bus carrying some passengers from the hijacked EgyptAir aircraft as it landed at Larnaca airport Tuesday, March 29, 2016. The EgyptAir plane was hijacked on Tuesday while flying from the Egyptian Mediterranean coastal city of Alexandria to the capital, Cairo, and later landed in Cyprus where some of the women and children were allowed to get off the aircraft, according to Egyptian and Cypriot officials. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

US hacks iPhone, ends legal battle but questions linger

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The extraordinary legal fight pitting the Obama administration against technology giant Apple Inc. ended unexpectedly after the FBI said it used a mysterious method without Apple’s help to hack into a California mass shooter’s iPhone.

Left unanswered, however, were questions about how the sudden development would affect privacy in the future, and what happens the next time the government is frustrated by digital security lockout features.

Government prosecutors asked a federal judge on Monday to vacate a disputed order forcing Apple to help the FBI break into the iPhone, saying it was no longer necessary.

The FBI used the unspecified technique to access data on an iPhone used by gunman Syed Farook, who died with his wife in a gun battle with police after they killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California, in December. The Justice Department said agents are now reviewing the information on the phone.

But the government’s brief court filing, in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, provided no details about how the FBI got into the phone. Nor did it identify the non-government “outside party” that showed agents how to get past the phone’s security defenses. Authorities had previously said only Apple had the ability to help them unlock the phone.

Apple responded by saying it will continue to increase the security of its products.

“We will continue to help law enforcement with their investigations, as we have done all along,” the company added in a statement, while reiterating its argument that the government’s demand for Apple’s help was wrong.

“This case should never have been brought,” the company said.

FBI Assistant Director David Bowdich said Monday that examining the iPhone was part of the authorities’ effort to learn if the San Bernardino shooters had worked with others or had targeted any other victims. “I am satisfied that we have access to more answers than we did before,” he said in a statement.

The dispute had ignited a fierce Internet-era national debate that pitted digital privacy rights against national security concerns and reinvigorated discussion over the impact of encryption on law enforcement’s ability to serve the public.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, said in a statement that while it was “preferable” that the government gained access to the iPhone without Apple’s help, the fundamental question of the extent to which the government should be able to access personal information remains unanswered.

Issa, a critic of the administration’s domestic surveillance practices, said the government’s legal action against Apple raised constitutional and privacy questions and that “those worried about our privacy should stay wary” because this doesn’t mean “their quest for a secret key into our devices is over.”

The surprise development punctured the temporary perception that Apple’s security might have been good enough to keep consumers’ personal information safe even from the U.S. government.

And while the Obama administration created a policy for disclosing such security vulnerabilities to companies, the policy allows for a vulnerability to be kept secret if there is a law enforcement or national security rationale for doing so.

The withdrawal of the court process also takes away Apple’s ability to legally request details on the method the FBI used in this case. Apple attorneys said last week that they hoped the government would share that information with them if it proved successful.

The Justice Department wouldn’t comment on any future disclosure of the method to Apple or the public.

Denelle Dixon-Thayer, chief legal and business officer at Mozilla, which makes the Firefox web browser, said in a statement that “fixing vulnerabilities makes for better products and better security for everyone” and the “government needs to take that into account” and disclose the vulnerability to Apple.

Jay Kaplan, a former NSA computer expert who’s now CEO of cyber-security firm Synack, said it is likely Apple will pursue avenues to further lock down their operating systems and hardware, especially as a result of the public announcement of some new technique to crack their phones.

U.S. Magistrate Sheri Pym of California last month ordered Apple to provide the FBI with software to help it hack into Farook’s work-issued iPhone. The Justice Department relied on a 1789 law to argue it had the authority to compel Apple to bypass its security protocols on its phone for government investigators. While Magistrate Judge James Orenstein in New York ruled last month in a separate case that the U.S. was seeking broad powers under that legal argument, the decision wasn’t binding in the California case and the Justice Department is appealing.

Technology and civil liberties organizations say they’re concerned the case is far from settled, with some worrying that smaller companies might not have the resources to fight off similar demands.

Apple CEO Tim Cook had argued that helping the FBI hack the iPhone would set a dangerous precedent, making all iPhone users vulnerable, if Apple complied with the court order. He as well as FBI Director James Comey has said that Congress needs to take up the issue.

Apple was headed for a courtroom showdown with the government last week, until federal prosecutors abruptly asked for a postponement so they could test a potential solution brought to them by a party outside of the U.S. government last Sunday.

The encrypted phone was protected by a passcode that included security protocols: a time delay and auto-erase featured that destroyed the phone’s data after 10 tries. The two features made it impossible for the government to repeatedly and continuously test passcodes in what’s known as a brute-force attack. But with those features removed, the FBI said it would take 26 minutes to crack the phone.

A law enforcement official said the FBI would continue to aid its local and state partners with gaining evidence in cases — implying that the method would be shared with them. The official spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to publicly comment.

High on the waiting list for assistance likely is Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, who told a U.S. House panel earlier this month that he has 205 iPhones his investigators can’t access data from in criminal investigations. Apple is also opposing requests to help extract information from 14 Apple devices in California, Illinois, Massachusetts and New York.


AP Writer Robert Jablon in Los Angeles contributed to this report. Bailey reported from San Francisco. FILE – In this Friday, Sept. 25, 2015, file photo, an Apple iPhone 6s Plus smartphone is displayed at the Apple store at The Grove in Los Angeles. The FBI said Monday, March 28, 2016, it successfully used a mysterious technique without Apple Inc.’s help to hack into the iPhone used by a gunman in a mass shooting in California, effectively ending a pitched court battle between the Obama administration and one of the world’s leading technology companies. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu, File)

Obama seeing China leader as South China Sea tensions rise

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama will be meeting with Asian leaders in Washington this week as fears grow that long-smoldering tensions on the Korean Peninsula and in the South China Sea risk flaring into conflict.

World leaders, including those from China, Japan and South Korea, will be in town for a summit hosted by Obama on nuclear security — the final round in the U.S. president’s drive for international action to stop materials that could be used for an atomic weapon or dirty bomb from getting into terrorist hands.

But other pressing security issues will be up for discussion on the sidelines of the two-day gathering that starts Thursday.

Obama will on Thursday meet separately with China’s President Xi Jinping at a time when frictions between the two world powers over China’s island-building in strategic waters are growing and look set to intensify with an upcoming ruling from an international tribunal on Beijing’s sweeping territorial claims.

The U.S. president is also meeting with the leaders of Japan and South Korea. Washington is looking for an elusive unity between its core allies in Asia as threats from North Korea reach fever-pitch after Pyongyang was stung with tough sanctions in response to its recent nuclear test and rocket launch.

Obama will be urging China to implement the U.N. sanctions it signed up to for use against North Korea, its traditional ally. For his part, Xi will want the U.S. to restart negotiations with the authoritarian government of Kim Jong Un, which has been touting progress in miniaturizing nuclear devices and missile technology that could directly threaten America.

With Obama’s presidency in its final year, there’s uncertainty among Asian nations on what the next administration will portend. Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump is calling for Japan and South Korea to pay more for U.S. military protection, and is advocating a tougher trade policy toward China.

During his seven years in office, Obama has deepened engagement with Asia, despite the huge distraction of chaos in the Middle East. The U.S. and China have cooperated on issues like climate change and nuclear security, even as their strategic rivalry has grown. The U.S. is a major player in China’s fast-growing nuclear industry, and this month, the U.S. and China opened a center in Beijing to train technicians and scientists from across the Asia-Pacific on nuclear security.

But when Obama and Xi meet, the hottest topic will be the most divisive one: China’s bold pursuit of its sweeping territorial claims in the South China Sea.

China has reclaimed more than 3,000 acres of land in the past two years near sea lanes crucial for world trade. On these artificial islands, Beijing has installed airstrips and other military facilities that U.S. intelligence assesses will enable China to project offensive military power in the region by early next year.

Despite conflicting territorial claims from five other Asian governments, China contends it has a historic right to most of the South China Sea and maintains the U.S. has no business there. It accuses the U.S. of stoking tensions by sending military ships and planes through the area on freedom of navigation maneuvers.

“Washington should know that the more provocative moves it makes against China, the more counter-measures Beijing will take. Such an undesirable cycle may push both sides nearer confrontation and cause both to prepare for the worst-case scenario, potentially making it self-fulfilling,” the U.S. edition of the state-supported China Daily said in a recent editorial.

The stakes are set to rise by mid-year when an international arbitration body is set to rule on a case brought by the Philippines challenging the legal basis of the nine-dash line — Beijing’s rough demarcation of its claims.

If the Hague-based tribunal rules in the Philippines’ favor, as most experts anticipate, it could undermine China’s insistence that its stance is consistent with international law. China has refused to participate in the arbitration and says it will ignore the ruling, but a growing number of countries say both parties should be bound by it.

Jeffrey Bader, Obama’s former principal advisor on Asia, wrote in a commentary ahead of the summit that there’s concern in Washington and the region about how China might react to the ruling, and whether it will militarily challenge Filipino territorial claims. He said that as the Philippines is a U.S. ally, Obama “may warn Xi of the risks of escalation.”

The last time Xi visited Washington, in September, he publicly said that China did not intend to pursue militarization in the Spratly islands where most of land reclamation has happened — a statement that U.S. officials remind Beijing of at every opportunity. But in recent weeks, China has reportedly positioned more military equipment on disputed islands in the South China Sea.


In this photo taken Nov. 30, 2015, President Barack Obama meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Le Bourget, France. President Barack Obama will be meeting with Asian leaders in Washington this week as fears grow that long-smoldering tensions on the Korean Peninsula and in the South China Sea could flare into conflict. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Business: Europe higher, Asia mostly lower before Fed chair speech

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TOKYO (AP) — European stocks rose in early trading and Asian shares mostly slipped Tuesday as investors awaited a speech by the U.S. Federal Reserve chief. Shares had ended mixed on Wall Street.

KEEPING SCORE: France’s CAC 40 added 0.7 percent to 4,361.13 early in the day. Germany’s DAX rose 0.4 percent to 9,888.94. Britain’s FTSE 100 edged up 0.4 percent to 6,130.77. U.S. shares were set to be little changed with Dow futures inching down 0.03 percent to 17,442, while S&P 500 futures added 0.06 percent to 2,029.20.

ASIA’S DAY: Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 lost 0.2 percent to finish at 17,103.53. South Korea’s Kospi added 0.6 percent to 1,994.91. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.1 percent to 20,366.30, while the Shanghai Composite dipped 1.3 percent to 2,919.83. Other regional markets, such as Taiwan, Singapore and the Philippines, were lower.

WALL STREET: Shares were mixed on Wall Street. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 19.66 points, or 0.1 percent, to 17,535.39. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index added 1.11 points to 2,037.05, ending a three-day losing streak. The Nasdaq composite index lost 6.72 points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,766.79. Stocks have flagged over the last few days after a five-week rally.

JAPAN MIXED: Japan released consumption data that showed household spending was growing but retail sales were weakening. The fluctuating dollar has also contributed to directionless trading lately.

THE FED: Investors were watching for any signs of future interest rate plans in Chair Janet Yellen’s speech at the Economic Club of New York later in the day.

THE QUOTE: “There are plenty of opportunities to evaluate the state of the U.S. economy this week, and markets globally will look for cues from … Fed members and non-farm payrolls on Friday,” said Alex Furber, senior client services executive at CMC Markets in Singapore.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell 50 cents to $38.89 a barrel in New York. It fell 7 cents to $39.39 Monday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 41 cents to $40.46 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The euro inched up to $1.1178 from $1.1170. The dollar edged up to 113.67 yen from 113.52 yen.

Belgian police hunt airport suspect; victim toll rises to 35

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BRUSSELS (AP) — As the number of victims in the Brussels suicide attacks rose to 35, Belgian police released a video of a mysterious man in a dark hat seen in the company of the bombers who attacked Brussels Airport, indicating that he is still at large.

“Police are seeking to identify this man,” the Belgian Federal Police’s website said Monday.

The video’s release came as a Belgian magistrate also ruled that a man identified as Faycal C., who was arrested during the police raids that followed the March 22 attacks, could be released.

Faycal C. was among those taken into custody and facing preliminary terror charges. Belgian media reported the man was the mysterious suspect in the white jacket and dark hat spotted with the two bombers at the airport the morning of the attacks.

But the Belgian magistrate ruled that new evidence uncovered by investigators revealed there were no grounds to keep Faycal C. in custody and he was released, the Belgian Federal Prosecutor’s Office said.

The Belgian Federal Police’s website posted a 32-second video of the still-unidentified suspect as he wheels baggage through the terminal alongside the bombers.

“If you recognize this individual or you have information concerning this attack, please contact investigators,” police asked.

Tensions remain high in the city, particularly in the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek, where several of those involved in both the attacks on Brussels and those in Paris last November, hailed from.

Jamal Ikazban, a member of the Molenbeek council, tweeted Monday that young people in the neighborhood were being sent text messages by recruiters. Ikazban did not provide further details, beyond writing that “We must ensure these recruiters can do no more damage.”

Belgian authorities also announced that three more people swept up in police raids that followed the attacks on the airport and on a Brussels subway train were being held on charges of participating in terrorist activities.

It was not clear if the suspects ordered held by an investigating judge were linked to the attacks themselves. The three — identified by Belgian prosecutors as Yassine A., Mohamed B. and Aboubaker O. — were detained during 13 police searches Sunday in Brussels and the northern cities of Mechelen and Duffel.

The federal prosecutors’ office provided no details of the alleged actions committed by the suspects and released a fourth person without charge.

The bombings, the bloodiest in recent Belgian history, were claimed by the Islamic State extremist group and confirmed Belgium’s status as an unwitting rear base from which Muslim extremists can stage attacks in Europe. Many of those responsible for the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris that killed 130 people and wounded hundreds came from Belgium.

Four more people wounded in the Brussels attacks died in the hospital, Belgian Health Minister Maggie De Block announced on her Twitter account Monday.

She posted: “Four patients deceased in hospital. Medical teams did all possible. Total victims: 35. Courage to all the families.”

De Block had reported over the weekend that 101 of the 270 wounded in the blasts were still being treated in hospitals, including 32 in burn units. A doctor at one of those burn units who had once served in Afghanistan described patients’ wounds as shocking.

One week after the devastating attacks, which severely damaged Brussels Airport’s departure area, the facility is planning to test its capacity to partially resume passenger service.

Florence Muls, an airport communications manager, said 800 staff members on Tuesday will test temporary infrastructure and new arrangements designed to handle passenger check-ins.

It’s too early to say when airport service might actually resume, she said, adding that government and firefighters must approve the new system before Brussels Airport can start handling passenger traffic again.

Before the bombings, Brussels Airport served some 600 flights a day and 23.5 million passengers per year.


Lori Hinnant in Brussels contributed to this report. In this image provided by the Belgian Federal Police in Brussels on Tuesday, March 22, 2016 of three men who are suspected of taking part in the attacks at Belgium’s Zaventem Airport. The website of Belgium’s Federal Police on Monday, March 28 began carrying a 32-second video of a mysterious man in a hat suspected of having taking part in the March 22 bombing of Brussels Airport. “The police are seeking to identify this man,” the site says. The implication is that the suspected accomplice of the two airport suicide bombers could still be at large. (Belgian Federal Police via AP)

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